If you're Pete Wells, a restaurant critic for The New York Times, you disguise your criticisms as compliments and end up with a wonderful piece of snarky genius.
Wells was tasked with reviewing Javelina, a newly opened "authentic Tex-Mex" restaurant near Union Square in New York City. There has apparently been a lot of hype surrounding the new eatery, which might lead a reasonable person to assume they could expect great food and atmosphere. Apparently not.
From the very beginning, Wells is hesitant about not drinking the tequila-spiked Kool-Aid and inadvertently pissing off a few Texans, given that he didn't love Javelina as much as his fellow New Yorkers, saying:
"My interest in telling the truth about this establishment could come into conflict with my interest in not having my butt kicked by angry Texans. What if something I didn't like at Javelina turned out to be the very thing that Texans most love about authentic Tex-Mex? It may get in the way of my earnest desire for my next trip to Texas to be a safe and peaceful one. Lucky for me, I have only good things to say about Javelina."
What follows is a delicious, passive-aggressive snarkfest, the best quotes of which rival your mother-in-law's vocal concern about you eating that last crescent roll at Christmastime and how it will affect your health. Even the sickest burn is presented in a positive light, giving new meaning to the concept of a backhanded compliment.
"It always sounds as if somebody were telling a woman at the far end of the table that he had just found $1,000 under the menu, and the woman were shouting back that Ryan Gosling had just texted and he's coming to the restaurant in, like, five minutes!"
"Fresh or frozen, the margaritas have a slight chemical taste that I was thankful for because it tended to keep my own alcohol intake to near-Mormon levels. I also stayed alert and sober when faced with the Tijuana Manhattan, made with tequila in the place of whiskey and served in a rocks glass with no ice at all, even though it was the temperature of a freshly killed snake."
"While bartenders elsewhere have become insufferable bores on the subjects of ice and proper shaking techniques, the ones at Javelina are refreshingly free of such pretension. Even the water is sometimes served at room temperature."
"At most restaurants, you are served what you ask for so routinely that your eyes glaze over with boredom. Javelina does not fall into the trap of dull predictability. One night after I left, I realized the guacamole I'd ordered had never arrived; it's not every restaurant that gives you something to think about on your way home."
"Occasionally this Tex-Mex cheese fondue is served hot, but more often it arrives lukewarm, which prevents trips to the emergency room."
"Javelina's traditional yellow queso is supposed to be flavored with serranos, while a white version is said to come with both jalapeños and roasted poblanos. But spicy food can be hard for many people to digest, so I am relieved to report that both colors are quite bland."
"There is no dessert menu, so every table is supposed to get a plate of sopaipillas, on the house. I got mine once out of three visits, just the right ratio to bring a tremor of anticipation to the end of the meal."
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